When you’re an STR host, you might see your rental business as some sort of side gig. It might be that it’s not your ‘real’ job. You have other things to do. You have a life.
However, as far as your guests are concerned, unless you’re offering a super-cheap couchsurfing experience, then you are taking your guests’ hard-earned money in exchange for your accommodation and unless you’re running this business under the radar, you’re paying taxes, claiming expenses and financially at least you’re treating it as a business,
So when it comes to evaluating – and especially reviewing – guests then it’s worth bearing in mind that these people are paying your for a service and that mostly they are considering it as a professional service. What I mean by this is that so often, I read reviews that show that the host is decidedly not professional in the way they run their rental.
Does this matter?
It certainly could. Although hosts commonly assert that ‘guests don’t read’ in actuality, they often do study your listing and your reactions. Okay, I admit that they might very well not read your rules – who wants to read boring no-smoking, do-the-dishes, be sure to remove your shoes inside rules when planning a vacation? Guests read alright, but they read what they want to read.
And that includes clicking through to see what sort of person you are – they can easily evaluate that by reading the review you’ve left for other guests. After all, the chances are that when you stay with a host, they’ll be writing about you. Are they professional? Are they picky? Yes, guests check these things.
Giving the impression that you’re not a professional host, that you don’t have your guests’ interests at heart could cost you bookings. Let’s say it costs you a one-week booking – how much money have you lost there?
Let’s look at some types of review that are pretty common (on Airbnb) which indicate to me that the host really doesn’t care.
This guest arranged to meet me at 4 pm to check in. They didn’t arrive until 5 by which time I was late picking up my kid from band practice.
Although check out time is 11 am the guest didn’t leave until almost noon. Because my cleaner can only work until 1 pm this was very inconvenient as she didn’t have time to clean properly.
This sort of review is telling the world that you are not organised and that you’re rigid in what you demand from guests.
In the first instance, guests are invariably late (or sometimes even early) for check in. They are travelling. Planes and trains are delayed. Traffic jams happen. Did you let the incoming guests know that you’d have to leave at 5 to pick up your kid? Did you have a conversation with them (in person or otherwise) the day before check out to be sure they’d leave by 11 because your cleaner was coming in at that time?
(Personally, the second example is the one that annoys me a lot. Hosts can’t just rely on guests to be organised enough to leave on the dot of check out time. They are on a trip from home, they don’t have to be at the airport until 1 pm, they’re packing but can’t find their phone charger. Hosts who don’t take charge really have nothing to complain about.)
Then there’s this sort of thing…
The guest caused the toilet to be stopped up and I had to have the afternoon off work to deal with the plumber.
If the guest genuinely caused the toilet blockage that’s not a good thing. But do you absolutely know that it was the fault of that particular guest? Some problems, including plumbing problems, can be cumulative. But the truly unprofessional aspect here is the latter part of the sentence.
You are paid to look after your guests and your property. No matter what the problem, it is not your guest’s fault that you had to have the afternoon off work. I would be very wary of accusing the guest of the damage unless I was 100% sure but I certainly wouldn’t mention the time off work.
Then there are the guests who ‘steal’.
We discovered after the guest had left that they had taken an expensive cashmere throw.
Or ‘a bottle of brandy’ or ‘my partner’s jacket’ or ‘a good-quality towel’ or ‘an expensive ornament’ … the list goes on and on. Which all begs the question, why were those items there in the first place? Experienced hosts know that, with the best will in the world, guests will accidentally damage items.
Recently I’ve had guests accidentally break a vase, break a window (this has, astonishingly, happened twice), damage the electric kettle, put something in the waste disposer that destroyed it, umpteen stained towels and bedding items, break a beach umbrella (it was probably the wind) … and much more. But these things happen.
Glasses are broken, spoons are mangled in the waste disposer, women have night time accidents on the sheets … Items that have disappeared have probably been broken or damaged and guiltily thrown out by the guest. Sometimes items are packed into a guests’ luggage accidentally. Sometimes you get a guest (and I admit that I’m a bit like this) who truly believes that anything in the place they are renting is available for them to use.
Calling out a guest for stealing indicates a) that a host hasn’t taken care guest-proofing the property b) that the host may well be in error and c) can even be libellous. I have sometimes assumed that a guest was responsible for the disappearance of a towel, a salad bowl, a pillow, a bathrobe, only to discover the items in strange places in the rental.